Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Dallas, condemned the Freedom From Religion Foundation and left-wing advocacy groups for their attacks on a Bible study attended by Cabinet officials in the White House. FFRF is suing Secretary Ben Carson's Department of Housing and Urban Development for "dodging" records requests relating to the Bible study.
"There are those on the left who cannot stand the fact that certain members of the president's Cabinet place their trust in the God who created the universe instead of the god of government, of secular progressivism or of 'self,' Pastor Jeffress said in a statement.
FFRF says it wants the records to determine whether or not the weekly Bible study sessions at the White House "use government resources, whether staffers may feel coerced into organizing or even participating in the religious event, and to ascertain government access granted to Capitol Ministries, a group that seeks to evangelize elected officials."
The lawsuit, filed by FFRF and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, claims that HUD has a "pattern and practice" of denying fee waivers on Freedom of Information Act requests "where disclosure of the requested documents is likely to cast the agency or HUD Secretary Ben Carson in a negative light."
Jeffress said when government officials walk into the White House, "they may be required to surrender their cell phones, but they are not required to surrender their First Amendment right to the free exercise of their faith."
"Thankfully, many Americans still see great wisdom in the reading of God's Word and the seeking of God's truth through prayer," he continued. "Attacks such as these must be called out as nothing more than bigoted and intolerant attempts to silence the free practice of personal religion. I stand with Sec. Carson and am grateful for the men and women in office, and in the president's Cabinet, who love the Lord and who have been entrusted with the great responsibility of helping lead our beloved country as 'one nation under God.'"
According to the Christian Broadcasting Network, no staff members attend the Bible studies; it's for cabinet secretaries only. The Bible study is led by Capitol Ministries founder Ralph Drollinger. Carson, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Energy Secretary Rick Perry are among those who regularly attend the meeting.
Responding to the lawsuit, Drollinger wrote on Facebook: "Rather than sue, the FFRF can simply go to www.capmin.org and check out copies of the Bible studies I write and teach the Cabinet, Senate and House members every week. There's nothing secret to this – and all related Bible study expenses are paid by Capitol Ministries, a 501(c)3 organization."
Carson also responded, saying he won't stop being a Christian. "I refuse to be intimidated by anti-religious groups into relinquishing my spirituality or religious beliefs. One of the principles of our nation's founding is freedom of religion. I will not stop being a Christian while in service to this country, in fact, it is my faith that helps me serve the nation even better," he wrote on Facebook.